The Cholmondeley Ladies, British School 17th CenturyBritish School 17th Century
The Cholmondeley Ladies circa 1600-10
Oil on wood
Presented anonymously 1955
© Tate

Jean Sprackland presents her poem, 'The Cholmondeley Ladies', based on the painting of the same name.
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      The Cholmondeley Ladies

Ladies with the slender wrists
Ladies with the fine long fingers
Ladies with the painted lips
And the alabaster features

This one in her golden necklace
Propped against the marble pillow
This one in her bony bodice
Silent figure in a mirror

Sister with the bandaged breasts
Staring with her eyes of lead
Sister with the eyes of ice
Dainty from the loss of blood

Sheet pulled tight and bed like granite
Ruff and collar stiff as oak
Infants tightly wrapped in scarlet
Warm with milk and cold as stone

Shove and snigger at the door
From the meagre village crowd
Shovel on the churchyard floor
Strikes, and breaks the frozen ground

JEAN SPRACKLAND'S latest collection, Tilt, won the Costa Poetry Award in 2008. Hard Water (Cape, 2004) and Tattoos for Mothers Day (Spike, 1997) were both shortlisted for major awards. Jean teaches English and Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, and is Education Director for the Poetry Archive. Jean was the original manager of the Poetryclass inset scheme, which supports teachers in overcoming the challenges they face when teaching poetry.